BEHIND that feigned smile in the attached photo is a frozen soul. Smiling for the photo was the painful part of the pleasure and pain aspect of fishing the Alpine country in winter. Those nail bitten hands were numb; the transition from toasty gloves to near freezing point water against the backdrop of sub zero temperatures caused an immensely obscure pain.
This must have been payback for all the times I've asked anyone to hold on to a heavy writhing mass of a fish whilst clearly tired, or for the times I've asked someone to take off their sunglasses and stop squinting during a bright sunny day. The wind chill added a special something to the pain, a frozen cherry on top.
I felt obligated to suck it up and smile. The chap holding the camera seemed to revel in my discomfort, in some shots I smiled and in others there was a clear grimace. Cold weather sucks.
With the warmer months now well and truly behind us it's time to face up to the winter doldrums. Boats and fisher folk generally hibernate during winter and everything becomes harder; it seems harder to start the car, it's harder to wake up, it's harder to find the motivation to leave a warm house for the blustery cold weather that greets a fisherman at 5am...
Pushing through the doldrums requires a psychological boost and optimistic outlook, the boat ramp is generally empty, popular fishing spots are often deserted and for the winter angler, demersal species rise to the fore with enough pelagic activity to also give the adrenal glands a kick. There is plenty of great fishing to be had in winter, you just need a little motivation to push through the doldrums and seize the opportunities.
The physical hurdles that accompany winter can be remedied with appropriate attire while the physiological hurdles require a little creative massaging; cold weather is a real pain, however, the bounty of our seas and rivers awaits those that grit their teeth and fish through the colder months.
I'm looking forward to catching a few snapper inshore, jigging some kings offshore, freezing my butt off for a few trout in the snowies, chasing the bigger tailor and bream that lurk around the lower reaches of our estuaries and even spending a night in the looney bin with the other kindred spirits that consider it an "enjoyable" experience to spend an evening in the freezing cold chasing the enigmatic hairtail.
Far from being a super tough bloke like the Marlboro Man, I've found some helpful items that alleviate the cold and make venturing into the great outdoors during winter a far more pleasurable experience. Fuel fired pocket or hand warmers help bring life back to frozen hands after they've been exposed to icy cold water, woollen thermals, plus a breathable windproof and waterproof outer layer, help keep warmth in and cold out whilst a decent balaclava may make me look like a criminal (old stereotypes die hard) yet protects the head which is a major point of heat loss. A piping hot Thermos of tea or coffee is the other little luxury that makes the misery of winter far more tolerable.
What do you do to manage the winter doldrums, are there any species that you target exclusively or is there anything in particular you love about winter? Do you have any tips to keep the cold at bay, I'd love to hear a few suggestions?